Things That Matter

Here’s How To Support California Farmworkers On Thanksgiving As They Continue To Work Through Bad Air Conditions

Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy (CAUSE) / Facebook / unitedfarmworker

The wildfires in California have ravaged the state. An estimated 699 people remain missing, and so far 79 people have died. The fires are not yet contained. In Southern California, as of today, the Woolsey Fire that affected parts of Los Angeles and Ventura counties is 96 percent contained. In Northern California, the Camp Fire, which is where more than 60 people died, is as of now, 70 percent contained.

The California wildfires have led to the worst air quality in the world affecting millions of people.

CREDIT: Facebook/Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy (CAUSE)

The fires started between November 8 and 12. Farmworkers in the state have had no other choice but to continue working. Despite the unhealthy air conditions photos have circulated on social media of farmworkers harvesting produce as the smoky air lingers above them.

The United Farmworkers (UFW) has said that some farmworkers, that are protected by their union, have been told not to work because operations have shut down due to unhealthy air quality.

CREDIT: Facebook/Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy (CAUSE)

“Some companies where farmworkers are protected by United Farm Workers contracts and that are affected by both the Camp and Woolsey fires have shut down operations when air quality got especially hazardous,” UFW said on Facebook.

However, because not all are protected under UFW, people have been helping out by distributing face masks to workers.

CREDIT: Facebook/Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy (CAUSE)

“We set a time to meet once we started seeing the sky. The air was getting worse and worse,” Aracely Preciado, from the organization Central Coast Alliance for a Sustainable Economy (CAUSE), told Pacific Standard magazine. “We sent out a call on social media, and students and other community members began showing up.”

A 22-year-old teacher also took it upon herself to pass out masks in Lodi, California.

CREDIT: Facebook/@FrankSomervilleKTVU/

“I don’t have the emotional capacity to go into detail about this just yet because I just got home and feel really tired, but today I spent my day in Lodi just 1 1/2 hrs away from San Jose to hand out masks to farmworkers in rural communities,” Paulina Cortes said, according to KTVU anchor Frank Somerville. “Find a way to give to a community who needs help. Thank you to everyone who is supporting me through donations. I drove through San Jose and all the way to Salinas to find the amount of masks I needed. This is important. The story here isn’t that I handed out masks, it’s that there are hundreds of people who are working in HAZARDOUS environments with NO protection. And no one even knows about it.”

Now that Thanksgiving is here, farmworkers need help and support more than ever.

As we figure out grocery lists and what to serve on Thanksgiving, UFW recommends purchasing from a selective group of goods in order to best support farmworkers.

It’s important to note that, according to the Washington Post, there’s 2 million to 3 million farmworkers in the country, but the UFW only represents 10,000 people.

Certain produce companies give UFW union members good worker benefits.

Celebrate the Holidays with UFW union products! The holiday season is about to start and that often means meals with…

Posted by UFW on Friday, November 16, 2018

Not all farmworkers have protections. The more people purchase from a select group of companies, the more inclined they will be to give back to their employees. They’ve made it really easy to know which companies to support. Click here for more information.

A group of school children have also reached out to farmworkers just to say “thank you for your hard work.”

CREDIT: facebook.com/unitedfarmworkers

UFW reports that elementary kids from Oregon and Washington made Thanksgiving cards to let their local farm workers “know how much they appreciate the hard work they put into producing the food that we will be enjoying this Thanksgiving!”

So if you can’t pass out masks or send out Thanksgiving thank you cards, here’s other options for you.

https://www.facebook.com/unitedfarmworkers/photos/pcb.10155935122091547/10155935120301547/?type=3&theater
CREDIT: UFW / Facebook

To help the UFW and their union members, click here.

For more information on the Campaign for Migrant Worker Justice and support the work they do, click here.

To educate yourself about the National Center for Farmworker Health, click here.

This Thanksgiving as we partake on amazing foods, let’s take time to reflect on where the food is coming from because who knows how much longer farmworkers will be around.


READ: Latino Businessman Allegedly Had Mexican Farmworkers Living in Buses And Paid Them Less Than What He Promised

Recommend this story to a friend by clicking on the share button below. 

Brazil Finally Banned Burning In The Amazon Yet 4,000 New Fires Have Started In Last 48 Hours

Things That Matter

Brazil Finally Banned Burning In The Amazon Yet 4,000 New Fires Have Started In Last 48 Hours

@AstroTerry / Twitter

If you haven’t already heard about it, Brazil’s Amazon rain forest is currently being ravaged by devastating large-scale wild-fires. According to recent reports and the country’s National Institute for Space Research, there has been a 77% increase in the number of fires burning in the area this year. No doubt, this large scale destruction is because of climate change.

Despite a recent ban on all burning methods in the Amazon, new fires continue to rage out of control.

Almost 4,000 new forest fires were started in Brazil in the two days after the government banned deliberate burning of the Amazon, officials have revealed.

Some 3,859 outbreaks were recorded by the country’s National Space Research Institute (Inpe) in the 48 hours following the 60-day prohibition on setting trees alight. Around 2,000 of those blazes were in the Amazon rainforest.

The figures come as the latest blow in an environmental crisis that has caused panic across the world, and which led the agenda at the recent G7 summit in France.

The Amazon fires are at the highest level since record keeping began.

More than 72,000 fires had already been detected across Brazil between January and August – the highest number since records began in 2013 and an 83 per cent increase on the same period last year.

If the Amazon burns away, global climate change will accelerate and many fear additional consequences for the entire world.

Because it is the world’s largest rainforest, the fate of the Amazon – often called the “lungs of the world” – is widely considered by climate change experts as key to the future of the planet.

It is a vital carbon store that slows down global warming while providing some 20 per cent of the world’s oxygen. Its destruction – deliberate or otherwise – reduces the ability of nature to suck carbon from the atmosphere.

President Bolsonaro seems to have finally been moved to action but many fear that it is too little too late.

But Brazil’s far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, who came into power promising to clear vast tracts of the rainforest for development, had, until last week, remained unmoved.

He has systematically weakened institutions designed to protect the rainforest, while offering moral support to farmers wishing to turn the land into cattle ranches.

And, although he has now placed a 60-day ban on burning and deployed 44,000 troops to fight the ongoing blazes, critics fear it is too little too late.

Tasso Azevedo, who runs the deforestation monitoring group Mapbiomas, said the legislation’s focus on fire means developers clearing the forest would continue to legally chop down trees – and then simply burn them after the prohibition period ended.

Writing in O Globo newspaper, he called for the ban on the use of fire to be extended until the end of the dry season in November. He said: “What we are experiencing is a real crisis, which can turn into a tragedy that will feature fires much larger than the current ones if not stopped immediately.”

Meanwhile, Indigenous groups are on the frontlines doing all they can to save their native lands.

As the fires ravage the Amazon, the world’s largest rainforest, some indigenous tribes are turning to prayer in a bid to halt the destruction and protect their environment for future generations.

“Our rituals pray for planet Earth, to always keep it healthy and safe,” Bainawa said. “We pray for mother water, for father sun, for mother forest and for mother earth, whom today feel very wounded.”

The Amazon also supports tens of thousands of species of animals who are losing their lives in the massive infernos.

Some animals may be able to escape. Large mammals, such as jaguars, stand the best chance of getting away because they are able to run fast enough to get away from the fire in time. But many other animals will be killed almost straight away.

Dr Claudio Sillero, professor of conservation biology at the University of Oxford, tells BBC News that he’s particularly concerned about the smaller creatures in the forest: “They don’t stand a hope in hell.”

“Different groups of animals will fare differently,” he says. “But we really need to worry about amphibians, reptiles and invertebrates. They live in microhabitats, and if these microhabitats get hit by fire then they will disappear completely, and these animals will die.”

Many are also upset with the international community for not doing enough to force progress on the fires.

The G7, which forms a coalition of the world’s most powerful and most wealthy nations has so far pledged just over $22 million to help fight the fires. Just $22 million. Let that sink in. It may sound like a lot of money but there are several sports players who make that in one season. There are CEOs who make that in one month. Twenty-two million dollars won’t even make a dent in the immense battle that is taking place across Brazil and Bolivia right now.

Female Indigenous Chief Confirms That Burning The Amazon Is Akin To Genocide, She’s Learning Portuguese To Speak To Brazil’s Leaders

Things That Matter

Female Indigenous Chief Confirms That Burning The Amazon Is Akin To Genocide, She’s Learning Portuguese To Speak To Brazil’s Leaders

everdayclimatechange / Instagram

“Our concern is that if the forest is gone, people will also end,” Ajareaty Waiapi, also known as Nazaré, told her people back in March. Protecting the Amazon rainforest has long been a top priority for environmentalists who understand the Amazon’s ability to store carbon. Nazaré is an indigenous Waiapi chief during a crucial time period under Brazil’s President Bolsonaro, who vowed during his campaign to ensure “there will not be one centimeter more of indigenous land.” He later corrected his statement and said what he actually meant was not one more millimeter.

For the last few weeks, the Amazon rainforest, which is home to much of Brazil’s 900,000 indigenous peoples, has been on fire. 

This tribal leader is on a mission to inform the world that saving her peoples means saving the planet.

Credit: @ediemorton / Twitter

At age 58, Nazaré decided to attend a high school geography class to better understand her peoples’ land and as it relates to the rest of the world. Waiapi elders, including Nazaré, have long predicted that these fires would come–ever since Bolsonaro launched his campaign, which included promises to declassify indigenous lands as protected and open it up to agribusiness.

Brazil has experienced twice as many fires in the last three months as it did during the same time period in 2018.

Credit: Jiachuan Wu / NBC News

Robin Chazdon, an environmental professor at the University of Connecticut, has confirmed that there’s no reason to think environmental conditions like drought has been causing the fires. Environmental groups are pointing to the most significant change in Brazil between 2018 and 2019: Jair Bolsonaro. Once he took office in January, he rolled back environmental regulations that made it easier for cattle ranchers to illegally burn down and level the Amazon for cows to graze, be slaughtered and repackaged to meet the world’s demand for meat.

Bolsonaro has long made hostile remarks about the Indigenous people, saying they “smell, are uneducated and don’t speak our language.”

Credit: @JComm_NewsFeeds / Twitter

Before he was elected president, Bolsonaro had said, “It’s a shame that the Brazilian cavalry wasn’t as efficient as the Americans, who exterminated their Indians.” All throughout his campaign, experts feared for the consequent genocide of indigenous peoples if he would be elected, given his disdain for the peoples and desire for growing agribusiness. 

President Bolsonaro has long resented protected lands for indigenous peoples, once stating that “the recognition of indigenous land is an obstacle to agribusiness.”

Credit: jairmessiasbolsonaro / Instagram

During his campaign, he threatened to shut down FUNAI, Brazil’s indigenous affairs department. Instead, in June, Bolsonaro elected a federal police officer to reside as the President of FUNAI. The new president, Marcelo Xavier da Silva, once worked on an inquiry that alleged that FUNAI’s interest in protecting indigenous lands was not of the indigenous’ peoples desires, but rather a product of “external interests and ideological objectives.” According to a spokesperson for the Articulation of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil, the new president already “has a long history campaigning and working against indigenous people – he was always in favor of farmers.”

The rise of Bolsonaro has prompted Nazaré to learn Portuguese so she could “talk with the white man out in the meetings.”

Credit: indigenous_celebration / Instagram

There are very few female chiefs because they are less likely to go to school and learn Portuguese. Chief’s carry the responsibility of protecting their peoples from outside dangers, the largest being the colonizers that have settled the land surrounding them. Learning Portuguese is crucial in protecting their land. Nazaré started attending school at 38 years old. One of her teachers even called her “an old parrot who does not know how to learn.” Nazaré not only learned, but became a Chief because of her determination to ignore the insults.

Today, she’s encouraging all the Waiapi women to go to school in order to protect their people.

Credit: apugomes / Instagram

“She always tells me to be chief in the future,” Nazaré’s daughter, Karota Waipapi, says, “to talk to all the relatives, to talk with the young people as well, so that the young people speak what she says.” Nazaré feels an urgency to pass on traditional plant medicine now that Bolsonaro has cut the budget for health care workers in indigenous communities. Back in the 1970’s, when miners illegally deforested much of the Waiapi’s land, it took far too long for the government to respond to a measles outbreak that decimated the population. Only 150 people were left by the time the vaccines came. 

Bolsonaro has rejected $20 million in aid from G7 to fight the fires, citing their aid as “imperialist.”

Credit: @ajplus / Twitter

The Waiapi people have long been in danger from the mere contact with other Brazilians. Today, Brazil’s careless policies that value agribusiness over people may be the end of the Waiapi unless the public steps up to fight Bolsonaro’s policies.

READ: Leonardo DiCaprio Is Helping To Lead The Fight Against The Amazon Forest Fires